In Which I Am Very Sophisticated and Then, Almost Immediately, Intensely Stupid

1. If John Malkovich really had a heart attack on stage at the Sydney Opera House, something more dramatic would happen than a few hammy flutterings from the soprano on stage with him – more even than the unhurried appearance of three men from the orchestra bearing a gurney from stage right. So, when he collapsed to the floor clutching his chest about 10 minutes into Friday night’s performance of ‘The Giacomo Variations’, I wasn’t unduly worried. Everyone around me, however, went batshit crazy.

“Ohmygod, is he dead? Is it part of the show? Is that real? Is he dead? Ohmygod.”

For gawd’s sake, people, it is called ACTING.

2. I often feel very sorry for performers. Usually its because they appear to have found themselves in a hell of other people’s making; bad staging, bad acting, bad directing. Sometimes, the remembrance that I often feel so sorry for performers that I am actually embarrassed for them causes me to avoid live theatre.

I felt rather sorry for John Malkovich on Friday night. The staging was so clumsily fussy that it seemed more appropriate for an Amateur Dramatic production than the supposedly world class stage of the Opera House Concert Hall. All the actors spent a significant amount of time on stage furling and unfurling curtains, struggling into and out of 18th century costumes and wigs and generally having to faff with distracting physical elements.

Also, opera singers cannot act. Sing, yes. Mime expressively, yes. Act, no. Not so much.

Mr Malkovich did his best – really, I can’t think of many men of his age who could convincingly and compellingly portray Casanova, seducer par excellence, and similarly he was the only one on stage who looked as though he wasn’t uncomfortably inhabiting a theatrical costume – and I enjoyed the evening thoroughly. But it was not a well-conceived production, all in all; neither a play nor an opera, it squirmed about self-consciously between the two.

3. Shakespeare By The Sea sounds delightful, too, does it not? And it wasn’t at all bad. A fine, one might even call it balmy, evening down at Balmoral beach. A picnic of fish and chips. Friends. And a free production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the chap playing Bottom did a truly professional, genuinely funny, job.

The rest of the cast, however, spent the entire time Declaiming their lines. Gods teeth! Shakespeare’s prose in the comedies is so jaunty, so full of jibes, winks and nudges that pronouncing every line as though it were The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a crime against art of epic – not to say lyric – proportions.

And then I got into trouble by referring to the ensemble as ‘amateurs’, the context being “It was excellent. Its not an easy production for an Amateur Dramatics group because of all the magic”. I didn’t mean they were not professional in their approach and dedication, just that they all had day jobs and must have rehearsed and prepared in their spare time. And jolly good for them, I thought. Until I was castigated for denigrating them. Apparently, this is another of those things of which one must beware when one is a Pom; any hint of disapprobation of a production of Shakespeare outside the RSC is immediately assumed to originate in snobbery rather than fair artistic criticism.

3. My single colleague who had the twins last year returned to work today. And has been reduced to tears already by another member of staff. Honestly, some people (and this was another woman who has had children and returned to work, so she really should have known better) have no empathy at all, do they? I mean, it must be difficult enough to have to spend the whole day in the office when what you really want to do is be at home with your children, to feed them and play with them and teach them, without some bitch having a go at you over some petty nonsense.

4. I went for a run on Saturday morning at 8.45am. Too late. Much, much too late. It was so hot that I very nearly gave myself heat stroke (which, sadly, isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds). I came home, had a cold shower and then promptly went back to bed for three hours. Silly woo.

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5 Responses to In Which I Am Very Sophisticated and Then, Almost Immediately, Intensely Stupid

  1. Well, if you try to give yourself heat stroke the right thing to do is rest. No danger of that right now here. . . You could run all day and not get too hot. Right now it is -4C and the sun has been up for some time.

    I know what you mean about criticizing theatricals — in Fairbanks you dare not say a word against FLOT (Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre). It was the only game it town, and had quite a following. But sometimes it bit off something that was a bit too much to swallow, like passing off the 50 year old fanatical christian grandma in an ingenue role. It was bad enough when she played Maria in the Sound of Music.

    I envy you the opportunity to see anything on stage, bad or good.

    • Woo says:

      Strange to think that its -4C there when its 36C here!

      Oh yes, local Am Dram societies seem often to be labouring under the misapprehension that 50 year old fanatical christian grandmas can carry off ingenue roles. The mother of an ex of mine regularly used to insist on playing the romantic female lead – and she had a great voice – but it made for some awkward on stage moments when she was serenading a man young enough to be her grandson. *shudder*

  2. If you have never read a book by Robertson Davies entitled Tempest-Tost I recommend you do so. Immediately. 🙂

    • azahar says:

      I recommend you read EVERYTHING by Robertson Davies – my personal favourite is The Deptford Trilogy. He’s my hero.

      • Woo says:

        Ah, I have, I confess, never heard of Robertson Davies so I shall now trot on over to Amazon to check out his oeuvre… thanks for the tip!

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